Music Shown To Improve Cognitive Decline

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Music Shown to Improve Cognitive Decline

Recent research provides more evidence supporting the value of musical training in the development of critical brain functions. Data evaluated from the recent study reveal improvement in executive functioning processes, especially the areas of cognitive flexibility, working memory, and processing speed. The research design included multi-age groups, and focused on assessing differences in executive functioning capacities in children and adults that had musical training compared to those who did not. While this research did not focus on the elderly, the study author cited results from studies that have, and concluded, due to the plasticity of the brain throughout life, it is never too late to pick up a musical instrument.

Dr. Angela Scicutella, MD, PhD, neuropsychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, says patients with conditions causing cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease dementia, have problems with attention and motivation. Introducing music to patients with cognitive decline improves these areas, plus helps to stimulate old memories and past associations.

In addition, Oliver Sacks, MD and professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, supports the use of personalized music for the elderly. Dr. Sacks played a role in the development of the YouTube video clip that went viral a few years back, titled Music and Memory, made by social worker Dan Cohen. The program shown in the video is growing and is now in use in nursing homes in more than 15 states and into Canada.
Dr. Sacks acknowledged the benefit of using technology, such as an iPod, in elderly nursing home patients with diseases such as dementia, cognitive decline, and brain-injury in order to introduce personalized music and bring them “back to life”. The personalization of the music used helps to bring back some of their own memories and their own personal history. He continues to describe how valuable this is to help “animate, organize, and bring a sense of identity back to people who are out of it otherwise”.

Many view the use of personalized music in elderly patients suffering cognitive decline to be almost a necessity for daily care. The promise and potential of music therapy for enhancing the quality of life of each individual patient, as well as the overall benefit to mood, speech encouragement, and peer interaction, is something nursing home providers should not overlook. This also goes along way with regulatory agencies looking for aspects of care reflecting individual patient care and treatment.

References for this article are available upon request.
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